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Fast, Easy, Stress-Free DIY Packing Tips

Friday, April 26, 2013

My best bud and dear friend of 15 years, Elizabeth, remarked, "I don't know how you are finding time between packing and hanging out with your two girls to write blogs right now!!” Simple answer: I'm crazy. That, and I load up on Venti Vanilla Blondes from Starbucks to get it done.

The truth is, packing up our house for our pending move (in three days) has been fun. Yes, I said fun. How is that for crazy? Hello. My name is Erin and I get my kicks from organizing and de-cluttering.

A little story for you: When dear, sweet Elizabeth and I were in our early 20s I snuck into her house when no one was home, and I entirely cleaned, straightened, and de-cluttered her bedroom. Like, for-real that actually happened. I picked everything up off the floors, cleaned her bathroom, made the bed, and finished with a tidy vacuuming job. She’s not a slob, by any means, I’m just a tad on the OCD side of organization. She came home totally surprised followed by a panicked phone call, "Erin!! I don't know where anything is! I knew where things were before you moved them!"

This is something I hear often from my husband. He's always grumpy with me about moving his items around our house.

The thing is, I have to be in a constant state of organization and de-clutter. If I'm in the middle of unorganized chaos, my mind is a Jackson Pollock painting – chaotic disarray.

Pollock, Jackson. Number 3. 1950. Art Fixx. Accessed 26 April. 2013. http://www.dailyartfixx.com/2013/01/28/jackson-pollock-1912-1956/number-3-jackson-pollock-1950/.

My organization has carried over into packing for our pcs (permanent change of duty station.) We're doing a full DITY (do it yourself) this time and I am in packing heaven (notice how I said packing heaven. Not unpacking heaven. I don’t care much for the unpacking part.)

When you hire packers, they have to remove everything you have stored in bins and boxes. Because of something to do with liability clauses, they have to pack all the same stuff you already have organized into their own marked boxes. Sounds fairly innocent, but the problem I have with this is that I have to re-pack everything the way I want it when we get into the new home. Imagine having every bin or box perfectly sorted, labeled, and stacked by room, then have someone come in and undo all of that the way they want it done. Jackson Pollock. Scrambled eggs in the brain.


This is my list of fast, easy, and stress-free packing-to-move tips to help you get down with your DITY - even if you're not a de-clutterer and organizer nut. Before you begin, it is best to have gone through all of your belongings and have placed everything in four piles:
a.) Keep
b.) Sell. (I’ll offer tips on selling soon.)
c.) Donate
d.) Toss
Once you know what’s moving with you, begin packing.
1.) Plastic Bin It.
I bought several medium and large plastic bins for items that will likely be stored for long periods of time. I try to find these while on sale at Target. I also try to only buy clear, see-through bins so that I can easily see what's inside if they're stacked. Items I put into these long-term storage bins are: childhood memories/sentimental items, books and DVDs we seldom use but want to hang onto, my wedding dress (truth), and picture frames I don't have a place for yet. These bins will help keep all of these items dry from water and dust if tossed into a garage or attic.
2.) Brown Box It.
If you're military and you've hired packers in the past, hold on to all of those boxes if you can. You'll save yourself time and energy for many reasons. First off, they will have the room it belongs to, your last name, and contents already written on the outside in marker. Take the box that says "master bedroom" and stuff it with all your master bedroom stuff. Too easy. Secondly, even though the military reimburses you for packing supplies for a partial or full DITY, you'll save yourself time from buying several sets of boxes, and you'll save organization/brain-power energy (gasp!) from keeping track of those receipts for reimbursement. 

If you’re mot military, you can find free boxes at any major store. Although, you usually have to request to have them set aside for you before they cut and condense them for recycling. The only problem I had with this in the past is that sometimes you get all small or oddly shaped boxes, or even boxes with left-over food inside. Therefore, I have found cheap, clean moving boxes at Home Depot or the U-Haul store.
Wine connoisseur? Seek out your local spirits store and ask for their old boxes with the dividers. Those are special boxes that are typically used for shipping, and should keep your bottles travel-safe.
Large wardrobe boxes are worth the money. It is so much easier to hang all of your clothes in a wardrobe box rather than squish them into a plastic garbage bag. Also, you can fit tall or awkward-shaped items such as floor fans and rolled area rugs into the bottom of the box underneath your hung clothes. 

Also, I build my box by packing heavier items first, lighter items last.
3.) Color Coordinate It.
Seriously. I may be OCD, but this will save you some sanity when you get to the new house. Especially if you're moving into a multi-level home, you'll be glad you color coordinated your bins and boxes. I bought electrical tape in assorted colors. You can get these cheap at the dollar store or with a coupon at Home Depot or Target. The best part is that you probably won't use up a whole roll of each color, therefore, you will have them all for your next move, and probably the move thereafter.
I pack by room, just like the professional packers do it. Once a box is taped up, I simply put the color of electrical tape on it for that room.
Instead of hunting down your marker scribbles for where a box goes in the middle of unloading the moving truck, you can easily, visually, see what level it goes on and what room it needs to be unpacked in.
4.) Seal It.
Since I pack by room, that means everything on the walls and in the closets, etc. go into the same box, making it easier for unpacking and getting set up at the new house. If you have candles, seal them in large Ziploc bags rather then roll them up in paper. This will ensure that if the candle melts in transit, it melts in the bag.
Once everything is off the walls in your entire space, go through and pull all the nails and unscrew all the curtain mounts. Seal those in a single Ziploc bag. When you go to re-hang in the new space, you’ll have all the same amount of nails for your fixtures and wall hangings. 
We also use mattress bags to help keep our bedding from getting damaged. I’ll pay the extra money for bags since that’s where I spend half my life – in bed. I want to preserve that investment.
A few final words.
Know that some items will break. Whether you do-it-yourself or hire packers and/or movers, expect something to get damaged. We have had movers and have done full DITYs, and each and every time something gets scratched or torn even though the best care was taken to cover and package it.

I use furniture markers to cover-up dings and dents. A pack of three are cheap at Bed Bath and Beyond. And occasionally I have to throw something out entirely if it’s unsalvageable. If you hired movers, make sure you take photos of the damaged goods and file a claim with the company as soon as possible. It takes a while to get reimbursed, and you probably won’t get the full amount that your item is actually worth, but they need to be held accountable for damaging your items, and you’re entitled to compensation.

Lastly, I don’t use newspaper to wrap my glassware. I have found that it leaves a film on my items, forcing me to re-wash them which is a nuisance when you’re wanting to get settled quickly into the new home. I have even had the print adhere to my glassware, which is annoying to remove. If a box needs a little extra cushion on top to keep everything from shifting, that is the only time I use newspaper.

Pack happy, my friends.


P.S. Every time I write “FRAGILE” on my boxes, I think of A Christmas Story…
[Mr. Parker reads a side of the box with the prize that he won]
Mr. Parker: Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.
Mrs. Parker: Uh, I think that says FRAGILE, dear.
Mr. Parker: Oh, yeah.


  1. Valuable information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site by accident, and I am surprised why this coincidence didn't came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you found my tips helpful.

      - EB

  2. Those are indeed stress-free packing tips! Like you, we have packers to save us from the ordeal of packing. But I still have to guide them and remind them of what to and what not to pack from time to time. For me, creating a checklist and labeling your boxes is paramount to packing and moving. I believe that we can make packing a less stressful activity if we have a good grasp on the concept of planning and organizing.

    1. Pedro,

      Packers are very helpful, but a lot of money can be saved to DIY. I hope you found these tips helpful. Best of luck to you on your next move.

      - EB

  3. OMG! Every time I write fragile on a box- I say the exact same line LOL. Great tips, we are packing for our 6th move in 11 years, but the first into our new home and it has been 6 years and 3 kids since our last move so we have accumulated loads more stuff.

    1. Michelle,

      I have tips on yard sales, too. I always have way too much crap and I have to sell it or I go crazy. You can check it out here:


      Thanks for the message love. :)

      - EB


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